27 April 2012

Confessions of an Online Book Club Failure

     I always want to do everything. This extends too far into my life, but especially in the literary realm, I want to do everything. I want to be in every book club. I want to complete every book challenge. I want to post on every book I read, and I want to read every book. Earlier this year I made the pronouncement that I would be reading along with the Reading to Know online book club hosted by my friend Carrie. I then proceeded to read none of them. Ok, I read a few, but I think I only completed one in time. I'm not going to make excuses, but just say that I am aware that I take on too much stuff when it comes to books. So, I will try and write up something when I do get to the books and when I don't....oh well.

Reading to Know - Book Club

     The book chosen for this month was P.G. Wodehouse. Anything by P.G. Wodehouse. I chose The Code of the Woosters which features Jeeves and Wooster, two characters you might recognize even if you've never read the books. According to the online book site Goodreads this is the 7th book in the Jeeves Series. It's not really that important because I'm fairly confident the books are ok to read out of order. And this is coming from me, the lady obsessed with finishing a series from beginning to end. (Unfortunately I looked at the exact order of the Jeeves series and I fear I am going to have to actually read it from beginning to end)
     Because I just finished the book and tend to think Wodehouse's plots (though woven incredibly tightly and effectively) actually take a backseat to his hilarity, I'm going to give the quickest possible sketch of the plot. Bertram "Bertie" Wooster, a young gentleman (read: unemployed but wealthy and with a lot of time on his hands) is sucked into a romantic and family drama when his Aunt Dahlia tells him that her husband is willing to trade his most prized chef (Anatole) for a silver cow-creamer owned by Sir Watkyn Bassett (a judge who is aware of Bertie's hijinks with his friends, and whose daughter Madelaine believes mistakenly that Bertie is in love with her, yet she loves his friend Gussie Fink-Nottle). Bertie decides to visit the home of Sir Watkyn first to ascertain how to get Sir Watkyn to give up the cow creamer and because he'd heard from Gussie that he and Madelaine had had a rift.
     What follows is a mess of two romances, and one bachelor trying to avoid romance, a stolen policeman's helmet, and a local dictator. In the end the only one who can sort out the nightmare is Bertie's valet, Jeeves.

    This is basically the gist of almost all Wodehouse books you pick up...at least in the Jeeves series. Bertie is the bumbling young man who gets into what seem like impossible situations and Jeeves always has a plan to extricate him. You think you would get tired of reading the same thing, but I doubt you ever will. Wodehouse has a way of writing that just makes you laugh. I don't know another word for it except breezy british humor. Everything is absurd and extreme, but not so absurd and extreme that you can't believe it.

    Not only do I respect Wodehouse for his ability to make me laugh so hard I cry, (This is no mean feat, when was the last time you laughed at a book so hard you cried) and paint such an extreme yet believable picture. I respect his ability to think of the most Gordian-esque knots to get Bertram in. I mean, in this one you have 1. An aunt who wants Bertie to steal the cow-creamer for her husband; 2. A Judge who doesn't want his ward, Stephanie, or his daughter marrying Bertie, Gussie, OR the neighborhood curate and Bertie who ends up at some point committed to both; 3. Gussie simultaneously boosting his confidence by writing insults about his future father-in-law and his future father-in-law's friend in a book, and losing it when the book is stolen by Stephanie; 4. A policeman who is intent on bringing Stephanie to justice for her dog; 5. Stephanie intent on retaliation by making her curate fiancee steal the policeman's helmet; 6. Sir Watkyn's friend, Roderick Spode, who believes he is a man of destiny, but is in love with Madelaine Bassett and who hates Gussie; 6. Gussie who loses Madelaine's heart numerous times by causing her to believe he is in love with Stephanie; 7. Stephanie who wants Bertie to steal the cow-creamer, so the Curate can return it, so Sir Watkyn will let them marry; ...and I know I'm leaving out so much more! Somehow this all doesn't get confused, and the reader can get through the book effortlessly in a day or two.

    It's actually somewhat rare that I read humorous books. There is no actual reason for this, I just don't read them that often. Perhaps it's because I'm too busy reading depressing books, like 1984. But every time I read a Wodehouse book I wonder why I don't read more Wodehouse books. So, I'm glad Diary of an Autodidact chose this author.

   Incidentally, I started reading this book on Thursday. This is Friday, so yes, I finished it in a day. But I ran to the library in a panic because I really wanted to participate this month, and I grabbed the first Wodehouse I could get my graspy little hands on. This particular one I have read before. Not only have I read it before. I had it read out loud to me when I was younger, and I've seen the Jeeves and Wooster television show episode of this particular book. So, I was fairly familiar with the plot and when I began to read it I thought, "Oh no! I picked THIS one?" But it was still funny and I was contented. I think I will try to read another though, just to round out my Wodehouse knowledge.



Sky said...

I laugh out loud as well! And I'm thinking "It's just SO absurd!" but I love it! And I eat it up! Wodehouse as such an air of deliberate ridiculousness about his writing.
And he was a man who knew some pretty scary and hard times being held as an "enemy alien" in 1939 France, seeing German occupation in Paris and even having his works banned! But you can see the humor in his works, the desire to laugh instead of cry. To make others laugh. I just love him!

BerlinerinPoet said...

That's true! Thanks for the historical notes. I didn't add that at all (which is actually unusual).

Not to make more of him than he is, but that kind of reminds me of Paul the Apostle when he was in jail and wrote Philippians which is all about joy. I'm not necessarily saying Wodehouse was consciously channeling Paul, but you've got to respect someone with a good outlook on life despite tough circumstances.

I really enjoyed reading him too, and hopefully I can do more ASAP.

Shonya said...

Fun review! I'm looking forward to reading a Jeeves book this summer. I can't imagine reading Uncle Dynamite in just a day though--it took me longer than I expected.

BerlinerinPoet said...

@Shonya: Thanks for reading, and judging by your other posts I have much more free time on my hands. I'm always impressed Moms get time to read at all. :-) I enjoyed reading your review as well.

Anonymous said...

I love Wodehouse too... especially Jeeves and Wooster although I must admit a special place in my heart for the short story "Crime Wave at Blandings" but that's probably because the behavior in it reminds me strikingly of my brothers.

BerlinerinPoet said...

Hmmm, another one to add to the ever growing Wodehouse to read list. Especially after that endorsement how could I skip that one?

Anonymous said...

Haha, you won't be sorry you did! AND it's a short story, so you can read it quickly.
Also, I sign up for impossible reading too. :)

Barbara H. said...

I haven't done as well as I had thought I would on the book club, either, but I knew I wanted to participate this month.

This sounds like a more intricate plot than what I've read in his books, but funny as always.

Carrie said...

Yeah to impossibly high reading standards! (It's better than going in the opposite direction and declaring that you never read because you just don't have the time!) ;)

Ok, I sort of DO have to laugh that Paul and Wodehouse are being compared in the comment section. (I just thought that was funny. An interesting observation, but funny all the same.)

Mostly though, all I can say is:


Which is not much, but is everything at the same time.

BerlinerinPoet said...

*grins back*

Hahahaha! Yes, it's not a great analogy. It's actually a terrible one. I just meant being joyful in trying times...and that is officially where the comparison ends. :-)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I'm also a "joiner," I'm afriad, and I haven't read as many of Carrie's Book Club picks as I originally intended.

I DID enjoy reading your review, though. I read Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, and much of what happens in the book you read is referenced in it. I do think I need to go back and read the early Jeeves and Wooster books.

Your review is fun!

Anonymous said...

Really I just think it's completely hilarious how many times Wooster manages to accidentally get engaged. How do you accidentally get engaged?

It kind of reminds me of "The Importance of Being Estnest."

Anonymous said...

ah! *Earnest